On May 17th, The Tennessean provided a wonderful public service to all Tennesseans by publishing an article that originally appeared in The Chattanooga Free Press. Matt Wilson's article, ("Parents could pay for kids' truancy"), is proof positive Tennessee is just another state among many that has completely discarded the idea of government only serving a limited role in our lives. I didn't even have to get to the end of the relatively short article to understand that some county leaders should be taken to the dump.
I say this in regard to Hamilton County leaders who are considering "a resolution requiring parents to pay a price for a child's truancy." What is the price of this you may ask? Either a $50 fine or five hours of community service. If you want even more evidence that county government in general is out of bounds, consider that the Hamilton County commission is actually going to "vote whether to provide a van for the court so parents can be taken to pick up trash on the weekend." And all of this because the children/students - not the parents - were for some reason absent from school for five or more days in an entire school year.
There must be something in the air or in the water in Hamilton County. I don't think I have heard of something this asinine in years. Perhaps the leaders in Hamilton County don't understand that they are still a part of a state and part of a society. This proposed resolution reeks of county government gone wild. When Commissioner Larry Henry states, "Truancy is something that's going to have to be dealt with, and it's going to have to be the parents taking responsibility for it", it's crystal clear he has things backwards.
I feel like I'm back in 1984 when Winston was supposed to believe that two plus two equals five.
I mean, the whole truancy resolution is a contradiction in terms. If your child has missed only five days in an entire school year, that's not a big problem. Now if that child has skipped school on purpose for those five days, why on Earth would you pass right over the child and instead punish the parent? That's moronic with a capital M. What does this tell the child? What is the lesson? Well, the child learns that he or she is not responsible for their behavior. OK. Tell me how this is a good thing.
Here's the rub. There are some students (and perhaps their parents) that simply don't give a damn. No amount of government intervention whether it be criminal or of the nanny state variety is going to make things better for them. Wanting to do good in school and at work comes from within. The desire to succeed is internal and must be turned on from within. It's not even a race issue here in 2009. Anyone can choose the right path so truancy isn't even a possibility. There are two ways of looking at school or work. Either you want to go, and do so. Or you don't. Not complicated.
Commissioner Greg Beck may be busy looking for truancy figures in both public and private schools, but the proposed resolution should be scrapped. It will in no way reduce or eliminate truancy. If a student in the inner city or in the suburbs is clearly showing they don't want to be in school, so be it. Make it permanent. These students - when they do decide to show up - do not have the right to disturb the vast majority of students and teachers who are already there day in and day out doing the right thing.
I am quite worried about the thought pattern that goes in to trying to make a truancy resolution such as this a reality. It reminds me that we are in some kind of strange holding pattern. It seems there is no role in our lives where all areas of the government can find a way to interfere or find ways of taxing us and forcing us into some kind of community service. A day doesn't go by when I don't read of a county in Tennessee, or somewhere else that is finding a way to bring in tax dollars in a backward and nanny state kind of way. Never mind that this isn't change we can believe in.
This isn't the American way of doing things.
So, when it comes to having parents pay a $50 fine or pick up trash for five hours if their child is absent from school for as few as five days in an entire school year, Hamilton County leaders are the ones who should be taken to the dump. They must have too much time on their hands to be coming up with such off the rocker resolutions. The Hamilton County Commission thinking (or lack thereof) in regard to truancy stinks to high heaven.
Tony Zizza is a free-lance writer who lives in Hermitage, Tennessee. He writes frequently about education and popular culture. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.